Bristol De Mai regained his Betfair Chase crown with a bold front-running display under Daryl Jacob.
The wonderful nine-year-old was winning the race for the third time and by the time they jumped the third last he'd seen off last year's conqueror Lostintranslation.
However in his slipstream sat dual King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux who jumping the second last was almost upsides.
It was the wake-up call Bristol De Mai needed, Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge finding the reserves to go on again and he produced one more fluent leap, a hallmark of his performance, at the last.
That was game over for all the runner-up bravely rallied, the winner going on to score by a length-and-a-half.
Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, has a new Boxing Day option in mind this term after Bristol De Mai's failure to shine in the King George at Kempton over the years.
He said: “We specifically didn’t enter him in the King George, so we might have to think what to do next. But we might have to run in a handicap – because what else can you do?
“There’s the Cotswold Chase, but that’s not until the end of January – it’s a long time waiting until then, so the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby, something like that. It’s a shame there hasn’t been a crowd here today. Merseyside really takes to this horse.”
Jacob said: “He’s a real credit to the whole team. It was great – I was looking at the rain (forecast) all week up at Haydock. The heavens opened up a little bit before the first race, and I texted Simon and Isaac to say ‘I’ve never been so happy to ride in the rain’.
“It was ideal to have Bellshill up there. Obviously, getting a little bit older he’s getting a little bit cute, so I needed him up there at times to bring me along again. I think this is just the ideal track for him really – flat, left-handed, and he’s always at his best on those.”
Jacob pointed towards a certain race in April as being ideal for Bristol De Mai.
He said: “I’d love to see him in the Grand National. His jumping is very good – he’s brave when you need him to be, but as you could see down the back straight there, he was good and clever to pop them. I’d love to have one crack at him – he’s nine now, rising 10, so I suppose if there’s a year that’s going to be his it’s going to be this year.”
Paul Nicholls felt the ground had scuppered Clan Des Obeaux, with his charge having had a hard race ahead of his planned King George defence next month.
He said: “The rain today didn’t help him at all. On that heavy ground, he didn’t truly get that three-two. Sam (Twiston-Davies) gave him a brilliant ride, but he was beaten by a mud lark and a real true stayer.
“I’m just thinking all the way what might have happened on better ground. He just could have done without all that rain as the ground has gone very heavy. The rain has beat him, but he has run a blinding race. It was an encouraging run for Kempton.
“Cyrname and him have had a role reversal. If you think Cyrname had a really hard race a year ago on this day and Clan has had a real hard race this time.
“He is a tough horse and I’d like to think he will be all right, but he knows he has had a race today. I’m thrilled though and it was a good run.”
Connections of the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation also pointed to the ground taking its toll.
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “He never travelled on that ground. Robbie (Power) said after he jumped the first, he could feel he was hating it.
“Robbie has always said he’s a better horse on better ground and he finished last here in a novice hurdle one day. He did well to get round as he wants a bit more bounce in the ground.”